I have been to a few different Lodges other than my home Lodge and even with certain jurisdictional differences, I can say without a doubt, "Same Circus, Different Clowns." And I wouldn't expect to have it any other way. Yet, how can a traveling man go so far from home and always be received as family by a group of what would seem to be total strangers? Yes, there is a process to verify a member’s credentials and allow him passage to the inner chamber: Dues Cards, Tokens, Grips, a Pass... but I am not talking about traveling to another Lodge to simply attend a meeting.
I am talking about being anywhere other than your home and asking for directions from a stranger and each of you recognizing a token of the Craft. Immediately the interaction changes from the uncomfortable conversation with a stranger to that of a comfortable conversation with a family member. Driving halfway across the country on a whim to see a Masonic museum with someone you have never met and getting that feeling like you have always known each other. Or better yet, meeting someone over a social networking site via a friend of a friend of a friend and having private conversations with someone you have never taken by the hand and thinking that you have known the person your entire life, it just so happens you have heard each other's voice. Almost to the point that it seems like even though you may be traveling different paths, there are striking similarities between your lives. Beyond the type of person you are, but life experiences and family ties.
I suppose one explanation would be the way we are brought into the Craft, how to act and from that, what to expect from other Brethren when we come across each other. Maybe having the tempered tongue in Lodge and avoiding the conversations of politics and religion gives us just that little bit more patience and wiser choice of words when we meet a foreign Brother.
I just can’t help but to think... more like, feel, that there is something a bit larger to it than that. Almost in a cosmic sense that we belong together. Forged in the bonds of a time long forgotten.
The same goes, in some ways, to the family members of Brothers. Not just from the Mason to the family of a Mason, but the other way as well. Recently I was looking for a place to rent in town and thought I had the inside track on a small house that would have been perfect. I even spoke with the property owner on a Saturday while she was across the country on vacation. When I went into the office to fill out the paperwork and hand over the $20 for a credit check, the office manager told me that there was someone ahead of me and that they had already filled out the application and seen the house. She made sure to have my mailing address to send me the $20 back. The timing didn’t make sense because I knew about the vacancy before the place was actually vacated...
I went about my way and continued to look. In the meantime, I received call from an out of the way Extended Stay, B&B type place. The price was right and the timing was perfect. While looking at the room, I had a long conversation with the lady that ran the place. I can tell you that we ran the full range of topics and eventually, out of the blue, she told me that her father had been a Freemason. I had no idea how, why or where that had come from, until I remembered one of the charms on my necklace. It is a square & compass with a fire department emblem in the middle of it. It was given to me by one of the best friends and Brothers a man could ask for some time ago. As the conversation continued, I couldn’t help but wonder how this lady had made heads or tails of what was on my necklace from across the room. Regardless, I moved in a few days later and I was off and running.
After some time, to my astonishment, I got an email from my credit monitoring service that said a “hard check” had been done on my credit. As I read the possibilities of what a “hard check” could be from, I came across the hint that it could be from a potential landlord if I had filled out a rental application. I thought to myself, "That was a week ago. It was only $20, but if they already had filled the vacancy, why would they run my credit check?" I was a little upset, but blew it off.
A few days later, I received a phone call from the property owner asking if I was still interested in the house. We set up a time for me to see it the next day with her husband and it fit the bill just fine. It was in town, close to my kids and the price was right. Even if I had to cover the utilities, I could swing it. As I left the meeting, her husband told me that the wife was emailing me some information to complete the lease and instructed me to give her a call when I had it all set and we could move forward. As I got in my truck, I couldn’t understand how she had my email address. As it turns out, all of the ladies that work in the office for the city where I am an Alderman had been working their magic on the phone trying to find me a place in town. My phone dinged that I had not an email, but a message. The owner had dropped off the lease agreement for me at City Hall.
I finalized the signatures and headed into their office to turn in the agreement and put the deposit down. As I was waiting for the keys to be found, I had another lengthy conversation with the office manager. Again, the topic of Freemasonry was brought up and not by me. My necklace struck again. This time, she was just aware of the Fraternity with no family connection. Then I got to thinking, what happened to the guy that was ahead of me for the house? Was there a miscommunication and the owner had told the office manager that it was taken? And then, when I showed up for the application, it wasn’t put together that I was the same person? Or when I picked up the application, had the office manager seen my necklace then? Regardless, I have the keys and will be moving in on the first of the year, in the middle of a blizzard. First purchase? Snow shovel.
I have been a Master Mason for almost 16 years now. I am always learning more and diving deeper into “this thing of ours” and with more answers come more questions and mysteries to be explored. But I just can’t get past this feeling that given the ability to have lived during the times of the Crusades, or at some point in the future we, living or passed, are all tied together by some cosmic bond that can neither be seen or held.
Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a husband and father of two. Bro. Brian is also the lead contributor to theBrothers In Arms blog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"